News roundup
8:06 am
Thu July 5, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Thunderstorms cause power outages

Utilities say more than 200,000 homes and businesses across Michigan are without power following several days of thunderstorms and hot weather, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

DTE Energy Co. says about 175,000 of its customers were without power Thursday morning after a new round of damaging thunderstorms made its way across the state, knocking down trees and power lines. Since Tuesday, DTE says about 300,000 of its customers have been affected. The National Weather Service says wind gusts above 60 mph were reported as storms crossed the state Thursday. The Flint Journal reports 23,800 Consumers Energy customers without power in Genesee County. WSGW-AM reports 5,500 without power Midland and Gladwin counties.

Appeals court reinstates Blackwell case

The state Court of Appeals has reinstated an embezzlement case against the former emergency manager for Highland Park. Sarah Hulett reports:

Arthur Blackwell II is accused of taking $264,000 in payments that were not authorized by state officials. The appeals court decision reverses a lower court ruling - which had dismissed the case. The lower court agreed with Blackwell - who said as the city's emergency manager, he had the authority to sign the checks to himself. The appeals court says there's enough evidence that Blackwell acted improperly to try him. Blackwell was appointed to fix Highland Park's finances in 2005, by then-governor Jennifer Granholm. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says she's pleased with the appeals court decision.

Debate over sand dune development

Governor Snyder signed legislation recently allowing Great Lakes property owners to use tillers to dig up plants on the shoreline, as long as they get a federal permit. But another fight is brewing over relaxing environmental rules to make it easier for developers to build on sand dunes. Rick Pluta reports:

Michigan has very stringent rules that prohibit building on environmentally sensitive dunes. Developers say it is possible to build on dunes set back from the shoreline without harming the view, or causing other environmental damage. The measure to relax those rules stalled just before the Legislature took its summer break, but negotiations continue in an effort to break the impasse. James Clift is with the Michigan Environmental Council. He says there may be some room to relax the rules, but he says the state needs to ensure the Great Lakes shoreline is protected.

“So if the state of Michigan isn’t stepping up, these are dunes that are globally rare resources that are going to be under development pressure.”

Clift says the dunes are a draw for tourists, and also serve as habitat for rare or threatened species.